Off The Cuff Festival @ The Flapper, Birmingham, UK – 24 July 2010

Posted by Wayne Fox on Tuesday Jul 27, 2010 Under Festivals, Punk, Rock

Pulled Apart By Horses

As a venue, The Flapper has to be one of my favourites; it’s small, dark and hovers just the right side of not being a total shithole! The sound isn’t usually unnecessarily loud and has just the right level of intimacy. Not a full on in your face assault, but a more feeling of warmth as you enter the dimly lit dungeon. At least these were my prior thoughts before heading into day two of this three day mini music festival, Off The Cuff.

The half hour slots work really well, each band pulls in a good audience turnout for the entirety of the show. And even if you’re not really into the music of a particular band, the sets are so short you’re happy to sit it out before leaving the steam room atmosphere and head back outside for some cool air, a cheese burger and a much needed beer. Or two…

The name Tangled Hair conjures up a predictable image of a band sporting dirty shoulder length unkempt hair thrashing wildly on instruments ravaged by years of metal abuse. Instead the trio look clean well turned out and immediately score points from me as the guitarist wears a T-shirt sporting a sharking breaching the surface. Fickle of me I know but I am easily pleased. They play tightly with masses of bite and attack although on some tracks I found them to be a touch too strummy for my liking. At times their sound was abstract and the burst of a falsetto voice sounding occasionally weak. It was the between track banter that really made them stand-out. “It’s gotta be rough being on at 7 especially as the drummer from ‘Men’ (previous band) was so funny”. Almost taking this as a cue to joke some more the humour stakes increase, featuring subjects as varied as Robocop 1 “where Murphy dies”, The Little Mermaid and Aslam the Wizard. The humour almost begins taking the focus off the reason why they’re here – to play music. But nevertheless made the entire set worth hanging around for. In the encore song (another joke), whereas the falsetto voice sounded weak earlier now suits the last up beat, instrumental and head nodding poppy track perfectly.

Next is The James Cleaver Quintet, ironically the five some are a foursome with a lead singer sporting a stare that could kill and a disturbing menace in his eyes as he sings.

The James Cleaver Quintet

When eye contact is made there’s an immediate need to look away. An imposing stage presence is theirs in abundance. Their music is a full on energetic thrash that’s sounds incredibly tight, fast and distorted like a time warped tsunami!
Not an inch of stage or the first five foot of dance floor is left untouched. Despite pleas for a Circle Pit, Two-Stepping Windmills and a Wall of Death the crowd never really kicked off as instructed. I lie. It did. It needed physical interaction from the band. TJCQ finished as they started and with a crowd kicking the shit out of each other in a wall if death as instructed.
Their set finally finished with a damage count including; four broken guitar strings, the bassist stage diving straight to the floor, attempting to find something secure in the ceiling to hang from and nearly ripping down the lights whilst the guitarist smashing the shit out of his guitar. And all this after a plea to buy t shirt as they need the money.

Dublin based BATS look to have won hands-down the contest of highest number of supporters in the crowd judging by the T-Shirts worn.

BATS BATS

The quintet (a real one this time) play very intricate detailed guitar riffs reminding me of Redneck Manifesto, albeit much heavier and less drawn out. The stage appearance of BATS makes them look far less heavy than they actually are. The lead singer / guitarist could easily be the guy who works opposite in accounts but brings on a whole new persona when swinging his guitar like a bat and playing amongst the jostling crowd.

It’s in venues like The Flapper when bands such as BATS are best seen. To witness them in your face and not half a mile away in some nameless stadium or multi thousand capacity venue diminishing the intensity of the music. The BATS record is one album I’ll definitely be buying. Fast, punchy and keeping well within the boundaries of becoming a total racket. Good stuff. Particular mention has to go out to BATS number 1 fan! The Nick Frost look-alike who made the front row a much more interesting place to see, observing a multitude of sweaty man hugs, windmills and general lunatic fan behaviour.

The Dungeon is about the fullest of seen all night when &U&I take to the stage, and the accompanying cheer is the loudest so far too.

&U&I

For some reason I’m struggling to think what to write? I’ve no idea where they’re based but the local accent suggests they’re from not too far away. For a three some their sound develops much more fat than you could possibly imagine. Of course there’s the cliché crowd interaction which seems to be a running theme throughout the festival “We’ve chosen metal names for some songs just to add to the cliché. So this ones called Blood Bath”. The question does get raised “what would you do if your balls fell out whilst playing” the crowds answer “suck em!!!”
To see them live is awesome but then I’m always a sucker for bands with minimum members who are able to create such a massive sound.

&U&I &U&I

The last track of their too short set list had the mosh pit resembling a whirling cauldron of arms and legs a plenty. Causing many a concerned look from the bar staff and me thinking “How could you possibly police the crowd when a band like &U&I has this much control over them?”

The Headliner act. i.e. the band given a 1 hour slot and first band with any sign of lighting effects. When asked if I wanted to review this evening it was Pulled Apart By Horses whose name was used as the proverbial carrot.

Pulled Apart By Horses

The truth is I’d never heard of them, but was reliably informed that their stage show is exuberant and somewhat unpredictable at best.

To try and describe the music would be a pure injustice. It’d be easier and possibly more productive of me to describe the effects on the crowd and leave you to your own imagination. From my excellent vantage point safely tucked away on the side of the stage.

Pulled Apart By Horses

All I could hear and see was a band producing a heavy metallic thrash causing the crowd to dance violently, convulse make breaks for the safety of the stage, and pull down speaker stacks and pretty much anything else not bolted down. If it wasn’t for the enforced curfew this was a set that would probably need a riot squad to break up. If you’re idea of a good night is when you feel your teeth rattling in your jaw, when the air and all assembled bodies disintegrate into a wet hot mess, when it looks as though you’ve done several rounds without actually fighting.

Pulled Apart By Horses

Pulled Apart By Horses take some serious beating. Highly recommended unless you’re of a nervous disposition.

Pulled Apart By Horses

Words by Lee Hathaway, email Lee.
Photos by Wayne Fox, email Wayne.

Leave a Reply